Missouri Minute: Blunt will not seek reelection; St. Louis County, city relax COVID-19 restrictions

Hello, MBA readers,

Nearly a year to the day after COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday announced new guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated. According to the latest recommendations, people who have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine can safely gather in small groups with other vaccinated people and individuals at low risk of severe COVID-19 without masks or social distancing. This comes as both St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis loosen restrictions on the size of gatherings and the hours that bars and restaurants can operate. Elsewhere, in an unexpected move, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2022. The decision opens the the door for many Senate prospects, ranging from statewide officeholders to current Congressional Republicans to a retired NASCAR driver.


Stay alert

Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks, CDC says
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that people who have been completely vaccinated can meet other vaccinated people and people at low-risk of severe COVID-19 without wearing masks or social distancing. (Associated Press)

St. Louis city, county relax COVID-19 restrictions 
As case counts and hospitalizations decrease, county officials extended business curfews, lifted capacity limits and said entertainment venues like casinos and museums could submit reopening plans. The city extended bar and restaurant hours. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

KC region short 40,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses, officials say
The area has received 20% of the state’s vaccine allocation even though it constitutes 23% of Missouri’s population, the city health department said Monday. (Kansas City Star)

State COVID-19 data updated to include 81,000 more ‘probable’ cases 
After months of debate about whether the state was reporting an accurate COVID-19 case count, Missouri’s official tally was updated Monday, increasing the state’s total number of cases to date by 16.9%. (Missouri Independent)

Kansas City Freightliner to sell to competitor
The commercial truck and van dealer has reached an agreement to sell to Penske Automotive Group, which said the acquisition could add $450 million in annual revenue. (Kansas City Business Journal)

New Jersey company to acquire Mercy’s lab services business
Quest Diagnostics has agreed to purchase the lab services business run by Chesterfield-based hospital system Mercy. The business operates out of 29 hospitals serving four states. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Spring Venture Group to open Florida office, hire hundreds 
The Kansa City-based insurance company is opening a new office in Orland, Florida, that will house 150 sales employees. Overall, the company plans to hire about 1,000 workers this year, with 400 of the new hires in Kansas City. (Kansas City Business Journal)

St. Louis Community Foundation sets new grant record
Marking the fifth straight year of record grants to nonprofits, the foundation gave $117 million to 2,300 nonprofit organizations in 2020. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Ameren may face lawsuit over alleged violation of Clean Water Act
An environmental law group said the St. Louis utility is discharging toxic coal ash into the Mississippi River near where St. Louis draws its municipal drinking water, violating the federal act. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis biotech startup finalizes deal to expand into Asia
Wugen, which is developing “off-the-shelf” cancer treatments, has signed a deal with Chinese company Alpha Biopharma to manufacture and sell its medicines in multiple Asian countries. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Federal pilot project to turn KC lights into EV charging stations
A pilot project funded by the federal government and led by the Metropolitan Energy Center aims to install electric vehicle chargers on up to 60 streetlights this year. (Energy News Network)


Say that again

“We want to expand our offerings to tourists as part of our marketing plan. To grow a tourist economy you either, one, attract more tourists, or, two, you get them coming back more often.”

That’s Bob Hughes, a member of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, speaking about the need to diversify the northwest Missouri town’s attractions in order to draw more visitors, KCUR reports. Hamilton has been dubbed “Quilt Town, USA” because it is the home of the Missouri Star Quilt Co. and boasts about a dozen quilting stores. The pandemic caused Missouri Star, which owns those stores, to temporarily shutter its brick-and-mortar storefronts and increase its online business. E-commerce sales have increased by 40%, and no employees have been laid off, Missouri Star said. But other businesses in town have seen a steep drop in revenue typically brought by tourists who come to Hamilton for quilting. In response, locals have proposed many new projects to attract more visitors and encourage them to stay longer.


Go figure

$12.4 million

State officials are expecting to spend at least $12.4 million due to ongoing legal challenges surrounding the implementation of Missouri’s medical marijuana program, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. About 850 applicants who were denied permission to operate medical marijuana businesses in the state have since appealed, and roughly 150 of those cases have been decided or dismissed, leaving a backlog of legal challenges. These proceedings are expected to drag into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.


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Sen. Roy Blunt announced on Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2022. The Missouri Republican’s announcement has triggered speculation as to who will vie for his position, the Missouri Independent reports. Prior to Blunt’s decision, former Gov. Eric Grietens, who resigned amid scandal in 2018, said he was evaluating a potential Senate run. Other prospective candidates on the Republican side to express interest in the seat include Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner and Jason Smith. Retired NASCAR driver Carl Edwards also has been mentioned as a potential candidate. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is the most prominent Democrat to say he is considering a potential bid.


Hello, my name is

Transactly

This St. Louis-based real estate technology startup recently raised a new $3 million round of venture capital funding, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. This investment came from the St. Louis-based holding company Hermann Cos., as well as other investors. Founded in 2018, Transactly makes software aimed at facilitating real estate transactions for agents and brokerages. The company said its revenue increased 700% last year.


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